Christ in the Average Person

Father Benson admits: “It is not so easy . . . to recognize Christ in the average man—any more than it is easy to recognize the Divine will and guidance in humdrum circumstances.” But, here are two aids to help recognize Christ in others:

First, consider that “Christ caresses the soul, entices it and enchants it, especially in the earlier stages of the spiritual life, in order to encourage it to further efforts; and it is, therefore, a very real spiritual snare that we should mistake Christ’s gifts for Christ, religiosity for religion, and the joys possible on earth for the joys awaiting us in heaven—in a word, that we should mistake the saying of ‘Lord! Lord!’ for the ‘doing the Will of the Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 7:21). Continually and persistently, therefore, we have to test our progress by practical results. I find it easier and easier to worship Christ in the Tabernacle: do I therefore find it easier and easier to serve Christ in my neighbour? For, if not, I am making no real progress at all. I am not advancing, that is to say, along the whole line: I am pushing forward one department of my life to the expense of the rest: I am not developing my Friendship with Christ: I am developing, rather, my own conception of His Friendship (which is a totally different thing). . . . And therefore I am not finding Him as He desires to be found.”

“A second aid to this recognition of Christ lies in an increase of self-knowledge. . . . As I learn to know myself better, and learn therefore how very average I myself am, and, at the same time, discover that Christ still bears with me, tolerates me and dwells within me, it becomes easier for me to realize that Christ is also in my neighbour. . . . It becomes increasingly easy for me to understand that He can with even greater facility lie hid beneath that exterior of my neighbour whom I find so antipathetic, but of whose unworthiness I can never be so certain as I am of my own. . . . And then, having found Christ in yourself, go out and find Him in your neighbour too.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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